Once again, the Red Deer Rebels tapped into some NHL bloodlines in the first round of the WHL Bantam Draft.
There was Brandon Sutter in 2004, Adam Musil in 2012, and today Jake Leschyshyn whose father, Curtis, patrolled the blue line in both the NHL and WHL and was an Assistant Coach with the Saskatoon Blades last season.
Leschyshyn, the 6th overall selection in today’s draft, headlines the group of 11 players selected by the Rebels. The group of 11 also includes a local product and a pair of very intriguing American players.
Overall, Rebels Assistant GM Sutter feels the club was able to address the needs they had identified heading into today’s draft.
“We want to play a big, strong attacking type of game,” Sutter explained on the phone from Calgary, the scene of today’s draft. “You have to have a little bit of everything, so we have some guys who can complement each other… We feel real good about this draft. We have real good balance, a couple left shot defencemen and a couple right shot. Up front too… drafting a couple centremen, a couple right wingers and three left wingers.”
So, here is the full down of today’s Rebels draftees, including comment from Sutter on each…
JACK LESCHYSHYN (1st round, 6th overall) – Leschyshyn racked up 59 points in 31 games playing Bantam AA with the Saskatoon Stallions last seasonJake stands 5'9” and weighs 150 lbs.
Sutter: “We picked a player that is a complete player, a coach’s dream to coach. Someone you can rely on in all situations whether it’s to take an important faceoff or scoring a goal or making plays on the powerplay. [He’s] a guy that’s going to be a leader on your team and potentially be the captain. To be a successful team, your best players have to be your hardest working players and be your best leaders. With Jake, he fits all that criteria.”
DAWSON WEATHERILL (2nd, 37th) – A big goalie, standing 6'4" and weighing 175 lbs., Weatherill played bantam AAA for Red Deer White last season and produced a 2.52 goals against average and 0.929 save percentage.
“He’s uber-athletic and a big kid who has huge upside to his game. He’s obviously a local area kid and the goal was to get one of the best goalies in the draft. We feel we did in selecting him.”
ETHAN SAKOWICH (3rd, 46th) AND CARSON SASS (3rd, 47th) – Sakowich racked up 6 goals, 12 assists, 18 points and 42 penalty minutes while playing Bantam AAA in Fort Saskatchewan last season. Sass played Bantam AA for the Melville Millionaires last season and had 21 points and 30 penalty minutes in 30 games played.
“We get some defenceman that have some upside to grow, that move the puck well, play with some edge and also move well. An emphasis from Brent was that we wanted puck moving defenceman that could do a bit of everything.”
AUSTIN PRATT (4th, 75th) AND GRANT MISMASH (5th, 97th) – Both played at Shattuck St. Mary's last season. Pratt collected 73 points and 60 penalty minutes in 65 games. Mismash piled up 96 points and 132 penalty minutes in 65 games.
“When it’s all said in done, if they were to play in the western league, and we can be successful in recruiting these players, they can be as good as any player selected in this draft. They are players who both have pro upside and will most likely, at some point, play in the NHL. We’re really excited to go through the recruiting process with them to try to get them to come to Red Deer and play for us.”
Sutter admits the team is taking quite a gamble in drafting two American players from Shattucks St. Mary’s. But, if they can be successfully recruited to come north, the sky appears to be the limit.
“Pratt, specifically, is a player that his family is originally from Ontario. They are very familiar with the CHL so he’s a player we thought was definitely worth the risk. Both him and Mismash, if they were Canadian kids, were players we would consider taking in the first round. Should they come play in our league, this draft will look like we had three first round picks.”
BENJAMIN GRIST (6th, 119th) – “Boo” Grist who had 22 points and 73 penalty minutes in 43 Bantam AAA league games with Victoria Racquet Club.
“Very similar [to Sakowich and Sass] in the same respect. His brother was a huge guy that played in the league in both Tri City and Kamloops. We really like the defencemen we picked.”
CHANCE ADRIAN (7th, 142nd), BRAYDEN LABANT (8th, 163rd), AKASH BAINS (9th, 185th) – Adrian played Bantam AA with the Sask Valley Vipers last season, collecting 41 points and 36 penalty minutes in 31 regular season games and 10 points in 6 playoff games. Labant, of St. Paul, Alberta, played Bantam AAA in Fort Saskatchewan and earned 29 points and 62 penalty minutes in 32 league games. Bains netted 57 points and had 22 penalty minutes in 59 games with Okanagan Hockey Academy.
“All are big bodied guys that play a real heavy game, real strong game. They have skill and sense and can make plays and go through people. They all guys that we really like and fit the identity of what we want to do in terms of playing, guys that are tough to play against.”
CHASE STEVENSON (10th, 207th) – Stevenson had 68 points and 18 penalty minutes in 50 games with Okanagan last season. “A skilled, sensed player that is a smaller guy right now but he plays with a lot of fire and determination. One of those late round picks, whether it’s a Scott Feser type, one of those guys you think has the potential to find a way to play.”
The 11 draft picks will get their first taste of life as a Rebel when they arrive in Red Deer for the annual Spring Prospects Camp in June.
The Rebels also addressed their concerns about their defence corps by making a pair of moves to swap 20-year-old blueliners. Gone is Brady Gaudet, shipped back to Kamloops in exchange for the 47th overall pick that turned into Cass. In is Brett Cote from the Victoria Royals in exchange for today’s 31st overall pick.
“Cote is a bit of a bigger, stronger kid that plays a heavier game,” noted Sutter.